CHESAPEAKE, Va. - Jailed for serious violent crimes, court records say a Chesapeake man is responsible for shooting another man in the neck, paralyzing him for life from the neck the down.
The suspect is Jakim Funderburk, and court records show in addition to the malicious wounding shooting, he was charged with a violent armed robbery.
News 3 investigators dug into Funderburk’s case file and found he was about to undergo a mental health evaluation to see if he was sane enough to stand trial for his charges.
All of that was cut short however, when Funderburk took his own life inside his cell at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail (HRRJ) on Sunday.
“We are not a hospital. We are not a mental health facility. We’re a jail,” said Linda Bryant, the assistant superintendent at HRRJ. “We try to be a mental health facility and a hospital. It is just really hard.”
The jail is currently being investigated by the Department of Justice (DOJ) for several inmate deaths; most notably the death of Jamycheal Mitchell, who died in his cell while waiting for a bed at a mental health hospital.
“I wish we were a mental health facility where we had better terms for really what are jail cells, but we don’t,” said Bryant.
News 3 discovered this was not the first time Funderburk attempted suicide. Family members say he tried to kill himself while he was an inmate at the Chesapeake jail. The attempt got him transferred to HRRJ, the regional jail which oversees the area’s most mentally ill and violent inmates.
Bryant and the newly appointed superintendent, Ronaldo Myers, recently promised more transparency to the media, the public and DOJ investigators. She agreed to sit down with News 3 one-on-one to discuss what jail officials tried to do to prevent Funderburk from attempting suicide again.
Bryant says Funderburk was placed on 24-hour suicide watch the day he arrived to the jail on December 9, 2016.
“Constant observation,” said Bryant, who noted Funderburk had a camera placed in his cell. “When you’re on suicide watch, it is a pretty austere environment to be in. You do not have undergarments, you may not have blankets. There are a lot of things that you go without.”
A week later, on December 15, Bryant says Funderburk was moved to a mental health cell. About one month after that, Bryant says Funderburk was moved to general population, inside the mental health pod.
However, on February 3rd, Bryant says Funderburk started a fight with another inmate. “Funderburk was the aggressor,” said Bryant. “The problem is that when you have somebody who has punched [another inmate]…where are we going to put the aggressor? He has demonstrated aggressive behavior, and has assaulted other inmates.”
After a stint in general detention, Bryant says Funderburk was moved to a different pod on February 24, which still allowed him to socialize but with fewer people.
“Officers in this area are skilled at dealing with inmates with mental health issues,” said Bryant. “They are selected to go there because they have great communication skills.”
Bryant said she reviewed surveillance video prior to Funderburk’s suicide multiple times.
“The officer in that pod had made his rounds. I mean, he was there interacting with the inmates,” said Bryant.
Despite the jails attempts, they say Funderburk took his own life early Sunday morning, making him the most recent inmate to die inside the walls of the HRRJ.
Bryant says the jail is still conducting an internal investigation into Funderburk’s death.